Upon This Rock

Photo:  Sierra Club, iStockphoto/MikeNorton – Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

“I’m gettin’ married in the morning.  Ding-dong the bells are gonna chime.  We’ll have a whopper, pull out the stopper.  Get me to the church on time.”  Composers:  Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, “Get Me To The Church on Time” from “My Fair Lady”

Have you ever been somewhere, a geographical location, in your life where you have bad memories attached to that location?  Have you ever had something horrific occur either to you, or witnessed something horrific, so much so that whenever you drive by that location your hair stands up on your neck?  Most of us have.  In the swarm of the rage, locale seems to be what sticks to the memory.  In most cases, just the street, the structure, the building, or the name of such, can cause flashbacks of darker days, hurtful moments.  In fact, often times, that street, structure or building is avoided, even if it takes a few turns out of the way of traveling from point A to point B.

Church Exterior

(The church photo above is not the church building mentioned below.)

Recently, I got a phone call concerning an old family friend’s passing.  I wanted to attend his memorial service, regardless of when or where it might be.  Waiting each day after his death, and keeping my eyes on obituary notifications, I finally learned where the service would take place.  It wasn’t a surprise to me where the tribute would be held when I read of the location.  He had been serving as an usher in Sunday morning church services not far from where I live.  It happened to be at a church building where I attended in my teenage years.

It had been 40 years since I worshiped there.  Frankly, when I did leave that congregation at the time, I ran and ran hard.  Many others did the same.  Unfortunately, because of the twisting of what Jesus taught, there are several former parishioners that never darkened the doors of another church again.  In fact, as for me, never in my wildest dreams did I ever construct a scenario that would drag my feet across the threshold of the front door of that place.  There is much to tell here, but I will spare you the gory details.  Just know, even as a teen, I knew the scent of harmful and secretive inner-church politics, dominated by a corrupt dictator of a pastor. Extreme unjustified hyper-judgmental teaching ruled the day every time the doors were opened.  It would be a mistake to not include the fact that I was a victim of some of the false teaching which fueled the attitudes of parishioners delivered by the man in the corner church office.  This species of spiritual abuse stunts spiritual growth, amputates joy and plants painful shaming as the end result.  Unlawful, unbiblical teaching can and will shadow the listener for years to come.  The shaping from false biblical thought is like a child working with wet putty, resulting in distorted shapes.  It’s the same reason the warnings against this practice in biblical passages are so stark, hard and ominous.

At that time in my life I was not a true student of the scriptures.  I was ignorant of the textual evidence to support what my spirit already knew.  Later, many years later, I became more studious with biblical text.  Then, and only then, did the realization wrap me in the confidence that God had placed the unrest inside of me back in the day.  When teaching is contrary to scripture, the consistent Bible student knows the difference.  After all, God does not suffer from multiple personality disorders.

When Bible readers take the time to truly study what has been written down for us, then we know the ways of the great I AM often comes across as humorous.  Yes, God has and shares His sense of humor.    The day of the funeral, I re-discovered this truth once again.

Driving into the parking lot, I began to show familiar signs of stress and anxiety.  I had donned a sports jacket which hid the sweat soaking through my shirt.  Seriously, walking through those doors was a true test of my endurance.  Immediately, I began to see the extensive remodeling of the building which obviously had taken place over the decades.  There was a drastic color change, new pews, reconstructed stage, etc.  Right away, just the fact the building looked like a different place gave me some relief from how I was feeling.

Church Interior

(Photo not from the location.)

Truly, the greatest aid toward my sore, bruised heart, was the actual congregation.  Long-gone was the “old guard” who had been shaped by the now retired, misguided pastor.  I had also learned that the corruption hurt the congregation to the point of reduction of parishioners. (Once 500-600 attendees strong.) Apparently, due to a modern-day exodus, all were victims, to some degree, of a power-hungry clergyman who ruled over the unsuspecting flock.  In the end, there was no one there to remind me of the way things once were under the roof of the facility.  All of those years there was no need for the angst and bitterness I harbored.  If you find false teaching in a place, move on until you find where a correct biblical doctrine is taught.  God certainly has His ways.

Church Congregation

Photo:  ramsey-and-district.ccan.co.uk

Walking away from the memorial service for my departed friend, I was struck by a deeply-seeded biblical truth.  The classical Greek, the original language of the New Testament, spells it out:  “Ekklesia” (ek-Klay-See’-ah).  In Hebrew it is very close to the word, “Adat” (uh-DOT’ or uh-DOTH’).  It is the the word Jesus used to describe HIS “church.”  It is NOT a building, even though we might say the wedding is “at the church,” or turn left “at the church in red brick.”  “Ekklesia” means an assembly, or a gathering of people.  In short, we might say, congregation.  Sure, the building had been updated, painted, remodeled, but also, the local “ekklesia” who assembled at the address, had been changed.  He will do what He will with His ekklesia.

His ekklesia was to be built on ROCK, not shifting sand.  What foundation could manage shifting sand?

As a serious believer in the teachings of Jesus, my job is to be sure the attitude of my heart is remodeled, painted and updated.  He came to make all things new.  Therefore, I should follow in His newness, adding fuel for the race.

“…upon this rock I will build My chucrch (ekklesian); and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” -Jesus.  From Matthew 16:18b (NAS)

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The Fading Fad of Fades

“La-Da-Daa-da-da-daa, Da-Da-Da-Daa, hey Jude.  (fade)  La-Da-Daa-da-da-da-daa, Da-da-da-daa, hey Jude.  (fade)  La-Da-Daa-da-Da-Da-Daa, Da-da-da-daa, hey Jude. (fade)……………”  From 1968, “Hey Jude”, By: The Beatles.  Composers:  Paul McCartney & John Lennon.

You’ve wondered, right?  Maybe you’re too young to have experienced it.  Maybe there have been times you were watching an old TV show where an artist like, The Monkees, Partridge Family or Elvis, were performing one of their radio hits, only to watch them try to look normal as the audio of their performance began to fade out into nothing.  Correct me here if I’m not accurate.  Two things always happened.  Number one:  The performer is left to look uncomfortable and awkward as they try to keep up with the lip syncing until the sound goes to black.  Number Two:  You, the audience member, are left feeling oddly unsettled watching them squirm on camera as the song fades.  You know what I mean.  Oddly enough, as a concert-goer, you never saw that occur on stage.  If you did, the audience would be in revolt.  It’s like, if they can’t perform live, why am I here?

I’m an old radio personality who has seen this scenario change slowly firsthand.  There’s nothing new under the sun. (Thanks King Solomon.)

Here’s what happened.  YOU, as a music lover, were manipulated by radio and record labels.  How does that make you feel?  Don’t be mad, we’ve ALL been like musical sheep following the sheep ahead of us, who followed a marching drum major from the razzle-dazzle boardroom on the 18th floor.  YOU were the Guinea Pig that proved the experiment worked.

The fade-to-black music ending of pop songs on the radio slowly emerged in the 1950’s, ruling over us for over three decades.  A good example, within the top 10 charts in 1985, there is not one produced song with, what is known as, a “cold ending”.  In the 1990’s, the fade-fad began to…well…fade away from the offerings coming out of the record industry.  Pushing the fast-forward button, the top 10 year-end pop list for 2011, 2012 and 2013 gave radio only ONE fade-out song.  Why did the musical-manipulation-melee-madness begin?

Radio Theater Trophies

During the 1940’s, and before, much of the music heard on radio was live, in-studio performances, like the big bands and torch singers.  After World War II, they began to play more of the recorded cuts, much of which were recorded live as well.  It was very difficult, if not nearly impossible, to fade-out the endings of songs.  Any band conductor, or composer, would’ve shouted out in frustration, “WHAT’S THE PURPOSE?”  Plus, what hard-line composer would invite such a thing to his/her music masterpiece?  After all, the natural sustained ending, or a cold “stinger” ending of a song, was and is well-thought-out and pampered from the chicken-scratches of a songwriter to the artwork of a mechanical/electrical recording studio.

Piano Keys Ebony and Ivory

The early idea was more psychological than for any other reason.  Some artist, composer or producer somewhere came up with the thought that the ebbing away of the power of the “hook” of the chorus could induce a feeling of the slow passing away of lyrical thought and musical dynamics.  It was to leave the listener soaking-in the song as it stamps more of its identity while lingering with repetitive bars ushering us to audio silence.  (As a side note, in radio there was a rule of thumb used to know when to manually fade out a produced song live in the studio.  In the 1980s, we were told, by those in the know, like consultants and record reps, to fade out after 2.5 repeats of the rotating chorus.  Some productions placed their fades in that spot, if not, we would.)  As for us on-air guys and gals, it allowed us the artistry of segueing and mixing the wrap of a cut with the intro of the next tune hovering over it.  If not done, it was considered bad, or lazy radio.

Not to be outdone by those in the industry who decreed such a tactic, was another school of thought.  Some felt the effect of faded endings also gave the feeling of the music, the hooks and the lyrics could mentally continue after a three-minute song finished.  “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…(repeat & fade, repeat & fade)”  You get the idea.  Interesting thought, considering the entire idea of pop music is that the song must stand up as a “Velcro” tune sticking to the ears long after turning off the radio.  As you read the chorus of “Hey Jude” at the top of this article, you heard the song in your head, right?  Yep, it’s all about SALES!  It’s why some of the most talented songwriters are, or were, jingle writers for ads, like Barry Manilow, as well as “scores” of others.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)  You can sing them now, I’m sure.  “You deserve a break today, so get up and…..”  Or, “Like a good neighbor….”  Or, “Plop-plop, fiz-fiz, oh what a….”

Radio Car Vintage 1966

Early on, songs for airplay were too long.  Before you knew it, radio engineers were manually fading out the music on their own.  As it turned out, in the 50’s, radio fades on pop tunes became more of the norm as radio programmers, sound board operators and the sales department were looking to find ways to eat the clock for more ad space in programming.  After all, the sponsors pay for air-time.  Songs were the glue to hold the listener to the speakers until the next commercial break.  Fading out tunes was a perfect way to shorten the cuts played, making more room for the dreaded commercial breaks.  That’s why in the 90’s it became a big-deal for a radio station to promote the 30 minute music sweep.  Yeah, we all did it.  Most still try.  I know you’ve heard it, with a bouncy, happy music bed underneath…. “Hey, we love you so much.  So, we’ll treat you to more music per hour, (before the hated 10 minute commercial block.).  Come join us?  Your 30-minute music sweep starts right now.”

As for “Hey Jude” when the Beatles made the decision in 1966 to stop touring, cocooning themselves in the Abby Road Studio, they were not bothered by coming up with two or three different versions for tracks recorded.  Knowing they were not going to perform them live any longer, they allowed the fade-fad to be a signature for the fab-four.  Thus, “Hey Jude”.

So, that’s your radio hit parade of pop music history lessons for today.  However, in the end, I don’t want my life to mirror a radio hit.  If you’re like me, you probably don’t want to fade-out toward the ending of this life.  Sure, some with certain medical challenges have no choice.  Even so, the will is there to finish well, to end your musical adventures with a natural sustained chord, or possibly a cold stinger of an ending, that rings out in classic 1970’s reverb, “I WAS HERE AND MADE A DIFFERENCE!”  The Giver of life will never mind-bend, manipulating your life-song.  He certainly never has been in favor of fade-outs, but He does perform segues.

Nothing is impossible when filled with fuel for for the race.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they (you) may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus, from John 10:10 (NIV)

 

 

Leaving behind Part of Yourself

“Every time I see your face it reminds me of the places we used to go.  But all I’ve got is a photograph and I realize you’re not coming back anymore.”  Photograph (1973)  Recorded by:  Ringo Starr.   Composers:  George Harrison & Richard Starkey (Ringo).

It’s not just a few in my family tree that has suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s.  However, although each and every one, that I knew, may have forgotten who I am, I’ve yet to forget who they are/were.  That’s vital.  Investing in the lives of our kids and grandkids is a memory deposited into their minds and hearts one drip after another, like a savings account.

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Recently, I wrote about my beloved grandparents, complete with scores of pictures.  The gentleman above is my great-great grandfather Martin from my mom’s side.  I wrote of him last summer.  If memory serves me right, the man was born in the 1840s.  Here it is, 178 years later, and family still speaks highly of him.  What a reminder of how to live out a legacy for future generations.

That’s my granddaughter, Skylar in the cover photo above the title.  September brings Gradnparent’s Day at her school.  I was invited to visit her 2nd grade classroom, sit in an uncomfortable, tiny plastic chair and watch her while in her zone.  Make no mistake, these opportunities are blessed times.  My hope and prayer continues to be that she will remember my love for her.  Someday, as she sees the photographs of us together it will spark memories I have deposited into her mind so she will be able to bring them up to her kids and grandkids.  After all, when I do leave this life, I will be taking my memories of her with me.  It’s a biblical concept.

Skylar with Papa Brown at pre-k stone soup 2014

Grandparent’s Day from Kindergarten class.

The years run by us like a river rushing to the brink of a waterfall.

Skylar 1 year old birthday.

Her first birthday.  (That was a dress her mom wore when she was that age.)

As much as we might want to hold back the floods of time, it’s just not the way God designed it.

Skylar2

One day old and sound asleep.  (When her mom was born, I was afraid to hold her.  It was new to me then.)

What will she remember about me?  Will the memory file in her mind recall good scenes of happiness or spots of darkness?  All of that is up to me, the decision-maker of the forks in the road.  One memory she may not recall is when at two years old, when I had a longer beard laced in grey and white, she secretly told her mom, with some excitement, “Pa-Pa is Santa!”

As a person of faith, a Jesus-follower, she knows that when at my house she will hear prayers and stories about biblical characters.  Whatever happens to my health in the future that is one thing, an item of everlasting, I will leave with her.

If we still talk about my great-great grandfather Martin in 2018, it’s possible the ones to follow after me might well be reflecting on my pictures, recordings and writings in 178 years.  What will I leave behind for them?

Here’s to lots more Grandparent’s Days to come!  It’s up to me to fill-up with fuel for the race.

“These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your sons (and daughters) and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” – Deuteronomy 6: 6-7. (NAS)